Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Brexit Supports

Matt Carthy

Question:

30. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the contingency measures he will put in place, including financial support, to support farmers and the agri-food sector to deal with the outworkings of Brexit from 1 January 2021. [41596/20]

We have been talking about the countdown to Brexit and we are now potentially within hours of knowing whether we dealing with a deal or a no-deal scenario. As the Minister knows, nobody is set to lose more than Irish farmers and the agri-food sector in the broadest terms. I would like the Minister to take this opportunity to convey to the House the contingency measures that his Department has been working on to protect that sector that is obviously of the utmost importance to our regions.

I thank Deputy Carthy for the question. Whatever the outcome of the EU-UK future relationship negotiations, significant changes will take place from 1 January 2021. These will have considerable implications for the agri-food and fisheries sector and will require considerable adjustment, particularly for businesses trading with Great Britain. The focus of my Department has been on getting all sectors as ready as possible for all Brexit scenarios, with a key focus on protecting primary producers. For example, the work that has been done on infrastructure in ports and airports, increasing staffing resources, developing robust IT support systems and communications with stakeholders has been to ensure that we support the continuation of trade post transition and, by doing so, that we support farmers and the agri-food sector.

My Department has also ensured that financial and other support measures have been put in place over successive budgets to support farmers and the agri-food sector to deal with Brexit.

In addition, I secured in budget 2021 a total of €62 million for Brexit-related agri-food measures, and a new recovery fund of €3.4 billion will be available as required across all sectors of the economy to deal was the twin challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit. Furthermore, the EU budget agreement reached in July by Heads of State and Government includes a €5 billion Brexit adjustment reserve for those member states and sectors most affected by Brexit. We are working with colleagues across government to secure significant allocations from this fund. I am fully committed to protecting our farming and fishery sectors regardless of the outcome of Brexit and these sectors have done, and continue to do, a great deal for our economy. All my efforts are looking to protect our food producers in the time ahead.

We are working with our European colleagues and hoping that there will be a successful conclusion to the Brexit negotiations in the days ahead but we are prepared in regard funding and contingencies to support our farming and fisheries sectors, regardless of the outcome to those negotiations.

I thank the Minister for that reply. There are many varying and competing concerns for the agriculture sector in the event of a no-deal Brexit or a less than perfect Brexit deal. The biggest of those will be access to the British market.

I will ask the Minister about the exploration of other markets and, particularly, the importance of the land bridge and what will be put in place. There is a huge difficulty with regard to direct shipping and air transport to the rest of the EU. Air freight has increased dramatically in price recently and shipping capacity is also an issue. There are only approximately eight roll-on, roll-off sailings per week. Roll-on, roll-off is the preferred method of shipping transport for most businesses, including agri-food businesses. I would be interested in the Minister's outlining how he will support getting Irish food into the wider EU market post-Brexit.

We have been working closely with all agri-food companies, and exporters in particular, to ensure they prepare for 1 January because, regardless of what happens in the next number of days, there will be significant changes from that date when Britain becomes a third country. For every company that exports to Britain, that will mean additional customs checks and, for the agri-food sector more than any other sector, there will be sanitary and phytosanitary, SPS, checks as well, which will add additional administration and challenges to the logistics of exporting to Britain. Companies must prepare for that in the time ahead

On the land bridge, we have been engaging with the European Commission and Britain in every way we can in preparing for that. The fact that a deal has not been done yet poses a challenge in bringing final certainty to it but between now and 1 January we will continue to work with companies, our European colleagues and Britain to try to smooth those preparations.

Regarding exports, one way or another we need to find new markets and exploit the markets that are there. At a meeting of Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine an hour or so ago we learned that Ireland is the only significant exporter at EU level that does not provide export credit insurance. Is the Minister working with his counterparts in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to ensure that minimum step is taken? I would also like to hear of the Minister's work with Revenue to ensure customs formalities are loosened and additional supports are provided to small agri-food businesses that need to get their product into Britain post-Brexit.

There is an issue of financial guarantees that have to come from third-party insurance or a bank. Many businesses, including some small agri-food businesses, do not have time to organise this for January. Some of them are not even aware of it. Will the Department be in a position to support those small agri-food businesses in that regard?

On supporting companies to prepare for the additional requirements in terms of customs and SPS, significant financial support has been put in place by the Government. In particular, there is a €9,000 grant for all businesses to avail of to ensure they have a member of staff in their company who will have knowledge, understanding and responsibility to prepare for customs checking.

The issue of export insurance is something on which my Department has engaged with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. We have been looking at what contingencies will be required in the eventuality of a deal or no deal. We hope it will be a deal. Funding has been put aside to back that up and we will engage in the time ahead with companies and the agri-food and marine sectors and support them to prepare for 1 January and the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

Forestry Sector

Seán Sherlock

Question:

31. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the additional steps he will take to protect the 12,000 jobs under threat in the forestry sector; and the assurances he will give that the deployment of additional resources is sufficient to deal with the current backlog of forestry-related applications. [41874/20]

What improvements have taken place regarding licence applications since the legislation was enacted in October? I welcome the fact that the Minister of State has appointed Jo O'Hara to oversee the Mackinnon report and advise the Minister. The industry and anybody who is a stakeholder will welcome that appointment. However, one would have to look at that appointment in a medium to long-term perspective. There are approximately 5,000 applications clogged up in the system. What is the Minister of State doing to get that unclogged?

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Senator Pippa Hackett)

I thank the Deputy for the question. The current issues in forestry licencing arise for various reasons, not least EU and national court judgments, which required a significant change to our licencing system. I have made forestry a key priority within my portfolio and my Department has been, and is working, urgently to accelerate the pace at which licences are issued to ensure a robust system is in place for licencing that meets all of the legal and environmental requirements. Together with the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, I have met with many stakeholders and continue to meet with them on this and to engage intensively with all parties as we try to resolve this.

We have undertaken a number of urgent and significant steps to resolve matters in recent months. We implemented a detailed project management plan for dealing with the files and recruited a project manager to oversee this. We have invested and continue to invest in new resources. We now have 16 full-time equivalent ecologists working on forestry licencing. We continue to recruit ecologists and will be adding to this team very soon. We have increased the number on the forestry inspectorate team dealing with licences. We recruited ten new permanent forestry inspectors and they will join the Department's team very shortly, with four of them starting this week. They have been supplemented by four temporary forestry inspectors and all are immediately allocated to working on licencing. Finally, additional administration staff have been assigned to licencing to help and I am keeping all of these resources under review.

This investment is already resulting in significantly improved output. October and November were the highest months this year for licence output, with almost 600 new licences issued in those months. Licencing for felling with a volume of some 1.4 million tonnes were issued in that time. This is almost as much as the previous five months combined. I anticipate these positive trends to continue into December and beyond.

Notwithstanding the fact the Minister of State stated there are 16 full-time equivalents now appointed as ecologists and ten new forestry inspectors, what hope can the she give to my constituent, who is probably typical of constituents throughout the country? That person has been waiting more than 900 days for a licence and has been told that, if that person was to expend a considerable amount of their own resources on a Natura impact statement, it "might" quicken the process? What comfort can I give my constituent? Nine hundred days for an application is too long. What can I tell this constituent after this discussion? What hope can the Minister of State give that person?

Senator Pippa Hackett

Nine hundred days is a long time to wait for a licence. The advice I imagine the constituent has been given is that supplying a Natura impact statement would expedite the licence application. I accept that there is a cost associated with that. I do not know the constituent's details. If the area is small, the cost of supplying a statement could be prohibitive. If it is a large area, however, the constituent might be able to it.

In light of the advice the Deputy outlined, I imagine the person's licence application is in the backlog in the ecology section. Thanks to resources, we are seeing a large increase in that section's output. We will continue to work on that.

Are the 16 full-time equivalents on permanent contracts? The Minister of State mentioned that she intended to recruit more ecologists. Will they be employed on a full-time equivalent basis? Will there be a permanent staff as opposed to external staff who are brought in on a contractual basis? Will the Minister of State give assurances that all staff hired will be on a full-time equivalent basis so that we can ensure that staff are retained within the service to get through every felling licence application expeditiously?

Senator Pippa Hackett

According to the figures I have been provided, there will be a mix. We have recruited full-time staff. There are 16 full-time equivalents and we have sanction for eight additional permanent ecologists. Given the way we are going now, ecologists comprise a discipline that we will need more of across the board, not just in forestry. There is not a steady supply of them. In that regard, I would be interested in seeing more being done in education, training and development.

Trade Agreements

Matt Carthy

Question:

32. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has completed an assessment on the potential impact on the Irish agrifood sector of the EU-Mercosur trade deal. [41597/20]

When the Minister was on this side of the House, he joined our party in supporting a resolution that called for the then Government to reject the EU-Mercosur trade agreement. He did so for all the right reasons. The programme for Government rowed back on that and committed to a review of the deal. Anyone who has examined the agreement from an environmental or Irish agricultural viewpoint knows that it could be devastating. Will the Minister update the House on his Department's work on the deal in the interests of Irish farmers?

I thank the Deputy for his question on the assessment of the potential impact on the agrifood sector of the EU-Mercosur deal. As was stated at the time of last year's EU-Mercosur political agreement, Ireland was disappointed with the inclusion of a 99,000-tonne tariff-rate quota for beef from Mercosur countries. If ratified, this quota would be phased in under the agreement in six equal tranches over five years. Of the quota, 55% is for fresh high-quality beef, with the remainder being frozen.

The former Taoiseach and current Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, announced at the time that a whole-of-government review of the agreement's economic and sustainability impacts on Ireland would be undertaken. This research is being led by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, which has overall responsibility for trade policy, with specialist input and assistance from my Department. Implement Consulting Group was requested to carry out this work and the report is due to be completed shortly. It will help to inform Ireland's approach to the ratification process, which is expected to commence in the first half of 2021 during the Portuguese EU Presidency.

Notwithstanding the review, I am concerned about the impacts that such a trade deal could have on our livestock sector. There are potential positives, but we should be concerned about the possibility of beef produced less efficiently coming into the EU. The EU needs to look on the trade agreement in that light. There must be equivalence between reductions within the EU and what we expect of imports entering the Union. This is particularly the case from the points of view of sustainability and the environment. The 99,000 tonnes of beef that are referred to in the deal should be considered in that regard. The tariff-rate quota's potential impact on European beef production, and Irish beef production in particular, is concerning.

I am disappointed by the Minister's response. He did not accept the exact same speech when it was read to him by his Fine Gael predecessor when he was in opposition. Last week, we learned that 11,088 sq. km of forest had been destroyed in Brazil between the start of August 2019 and the end of July 2020 to make way for beef ranches. That beef is being produced at a very low cost because of the mechanism Brazil uses and it is being exported to the EU. Substantial quantities of Brazilian beef are already being sold in EU markets. The Mercosur deal will simply allow a further 100,000 tonnes of it to be imported tariff-free. This will be devastating and run counter to every assertion about the environment.

The Minister suggested that there were some benefits to Ireland from the deal. I would love it if he outlined what they were. How could a report of any description tell him that they would outweigh the deal's devastating impact, particularly in the context of Brexit?

The concern about the Mercosur agreement relates to its beef aspect and the 99,000 tonnes of tariff-rate quota. Wider trade agreements have a benefit for Ireland, including our agrifood industry. We export 90% of all of our agricultural produce. As such, being able to trade internationally is important.

The part of the Mercosur agreement that I am concerned about is the tariff-rate quota of 99,000 tonnes, particularly in terms of how it is produced in Mercosur countries. There must be an equivalence of standards with those we apply to the sustainability of our produce, especially in terms of the carbon footprint.

Completing the review of the impacts is an appropriate way of considering this issue and informing us as we proceed. As I have outlined clearly at all times, however, the 99,000-tonne quota is something that I remain concerned about. It will be the matter on which I approach this deal as Minister.

The Minister knows what the outcome of the report will be, namely, that the deal will be a bad one for Ireland. He also knows what the deal's benefits are. They accrue to the German car manufacturing sector. That is why the Irish Government will not stand up and say that the deal needs to be rejected. I believe the Government's position is that environmental concerns primarily will lead to such a public outcry that the EU will eventually have to abandon the deal. The Government will ensure that the deal is rejected without ever having to stand up for the Irish people and Irish farmers. I find that a cowardly approach. The Minister should stand up on behalf of the Government and say that this deal and deals like it are not in the interests of consumers, the environment or food production in the long term and should be rejected. The signal we are sending by refusing to reject this outright tells countries such as Brazil that they can continue destroying the environment in the name of food production. That is shameful and I call on the Minister to change tack in a way his predecessor would not.

The Deputy will find that I am consistent in outlining my concerns about the 99,000-tonne beef aspect. I have also pointed out to him the wider value of trade to Irish agrifood. The approach from his party is anti-trade in general. It is opposed to many of our free trade agreements, for example, the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, which has been positive for the agrifood-----

So was Fianna Fáil when it was in opposition.

Fianna Fáil Senators sat-----

The Minister without interruption.

We have always been consistent on the positive aspects of trade while also being clear on any issue of concern. I have been clear about my concerns regarding the beef aspect of the Mercosur deal.

It is appropriate we deal in logic and apply appropriate process to how we consider everything as a Government. That is why there is an impact assessment, which the Deputy is asking me about today. Yet, however, he is prejudging and looking to jump ahead of that. I believe the appropriate thing is to wait for that to be completed to inform our view. Notwithstanding that, I have outlined the concern I have about the beef aspect of the Mercosur deal, in particular.

Beef Industry

Holly Cairns

Question:

33. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the beef task force and his response to criticisms from farming organisations on its slow pace and lack of engagement with farmers. [41695/20]

The Minister must be aware that beef prices continue to be unacceptably low. I am sure he will tell me about the leadership the task force is providing, the agreement in principle to support the protected geographical indication, PGI, application and the Bord Bia market price index. The reality, however, is the task force is a talking shop. It is unclear exactly how PGI will benefit farmers and there are significant ongoing low prices. Farmers, therefore, are not seeing any benefits during one of the hardest years ever and Brexit is around the corner. What does the Minister say to criticisms from farming organisations on the task force's slow pace and lack of meaningful engagement with farmers?

I thank Deputy Cairns for her question. I am disappointed at the outset to see the negative approach the Deputy is taking to the development of a PGI application for grass-fed Irish beef. I do not believe it reflects the positive dimensions of that initiative and what it can mean in terms of being able to try to promote our beef more abroad and, ultimately, try to add value to it.

The beef task force, which the Deputy referenced, was established to provide the leadership to develop a sustainable pathway for the future of the beef sector. The task force provides a robust implementation structure for commitments entered into in the beef sector agreement of 15 September 2019 last year, and it has timelines and includes strong stakeholder engagement. To be clear, the majority of the membership of the task force are farmer representative bodies. They are there to reflect and represent farmers' interests and do so robustly.

There have been six meetings of the task force to date and the next meeting is scheduled to be held later this month. I note that work has continued steadily towards fulfilling all the actions of the agreement, despite the Covid-19 crisis, which added a further layer of complexity and a significantly challenging working environment for the task force. Full details of the actions, progressive updates and meeting minutes are available on the website of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

As part of the agreement, three specific consultancy studies, all of which relate broadly to market transparency, were commissioned. While these reports are behind schedule due to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, my understanding is that they are progressing well. Two of the studies, one on competition law and the other on market and customer requirements, will be discussed at the next task force meeting.

I was pleased to have the opportunity to address the task force in September. At that meeting, I emphasised that constructive and meaningful engagement across this group is essential to maintaining and developing the sector in a sustainable way, which adds value at all stages of the supply chain, but particularly and importantly for the primary producer.

I believe the sector can rise to the many challenges facing it and that the task force has an important role to play. I look forward to seeing continuous strong engagement from the task force as its work progresses.

The negativity the Minister points out I am expressing is with regard to the PGI in terms of how it can benefit farmers. It is not regarding the bigger picture the Minister is painting. I believe the broad reaction is that this is about them. The reason we can get a PGI is because of their practices but it is not benefiting them. That is where the negativity lies. It is important to point that out.

Regarding the task force, farmers feel they are again being sidelined in the process. Just two weeks ago, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association wrote to the chairman of the beef task force demanding more urgency and expressed its frustration at a lack of engagement on Brexit. Farmers are consistently pointing out low prices and have in the past protested about the prices they are getting compared to UK prices. They are raising concerns that the processors are not holding up their end of the beef sector agreement and are waiting for a response from the Minister's Department.

The task force has been in place for over a year now and practices like the four-movement and 30-months rules and insurance deductions still have not been addressed. Fair prices are in the national interest. We should be protecting those interests, not those of beef barons. Fair prices would keep people on the land, offer the next generation the opportunity to stay on the land and support a rural and social economy. We need a significant change in our response to this.

Coming out of the agreement signed at the beef task force of September last year were 37 separate actions. Of these, 20 have now been completed, six are in progress and one still is to be commenced, while ten are ongoing actions that are continuing.

I will go back to the initial point I made that the task force is primarily composed of farmer representative organisations and they have got fully behind, for example, the PGI grass-fed application, which I recently submitted to Europe. It was agreed with consensus and with the full support of the beef task force. The reason the farmer representatives signed up to that is because they see the merit in going down that route and, of course, we must push, advocate and market it in a way that, hopefully, after it is successful, delivers for farmers on the ground and in terms of beef prices. Certainly, it is a strong forum in terms of representing beef farmers going forward and I will continue to work closely with it to ensure it is effective.

As I said, I do not reject the idea or the prospect of the PGI status. I believe it is important. My point was to ask how does it benefit farmers. We still have not realised how that will happen. The core issue remains the industry is out to get as much profit as possible and continues to give low prices to farmers and treat workers poorly. This is facilitated by Government after Government and we have an opportunity to change now that we have new Ministers.

The scale of Covid-19 outbreaks in meat plants illustrated existing underlying issues in the sector before the pandemic. We were all aware of the unsustainably low prices and now we have a clearer picture of the horrendous conditions in which people are working. These two things are intrinsically linked and speak to how the industry treats people, both workers and farmers.

During the summer, the German agriculture minister pointed out that low prices do not fit with sustainability. She linked low prices with pressures on animal welfare, working conditions in meat processing plants and farmers' incomes. It is obvious there are clear parallels to be drawn here and they need to be addressed. To resolve the many issues and injustices in this sector, the Minister needs to tackle the power and privilege given to the meat processing sector and he needs to do it now.

I can assure Deputy Cairns I am absolutely committed to doing everything I can as Minister to support our farmers and support a fair income for them. That is why I worked strongly with the beef task force and the farming organisations to move the PGI forward. That is obviously something we must get approval for at European level and then ensure, in time, that we work to have it benefit farmers.

It is also why for the first time, through that beef task force, I have also secured and allocated €6 million, specifically, to develop a suckler beef brand, which I believe is important in trying to better promote our suckler beef sector. I also point the Deputy to the most recent budget where I secured an 11% increase over last year's budget, specifically to go towards farmers and to support schemes which underpin their income. That was significant and widely welcomed for them as well.

Another key initiative I have as Minister is to introduce a food ombudsman to try to bring more price transparency into the food supply chain to ensure a mechanism is in place where we can trace what is happening in international markets where our produce is being sold to try to ensure the price is being delivered back to farmers at farm gate level.

Common Fisheries Policy

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

34. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will advocate with his European Union counterparts for the EU to follow the lead of Australia in banning super-trawlers from national waters under the jurisdiction of the Common Fisheries Policy in response to the outrage in Irish coastal communities at the ongoing access to the exclusive economic zone being granted to super-trawlers and factory trawlers to fish there; and his views on whether this practice profoundly undermines the stated objectives of the Government and the European Union to maintain a sustainable fishery for coastal communities and to meet the environmental responsibilities of Ireland. [41616/20]

Will the Minister, with his European Union counterparts, advocate to follow the lead of Australia in banning super-trawlers from our national waters under the jurisdiction of the Common Fisheries Policy, CFP, in response to the growing outrage in Irish coastal communities at the spectacle of these huge ships hoovering up fish while inshore fishing communities are struggling so much?

I thank Deputy Mac Lochlainn for his question. As he will be aware, under the Common Fisheries Policy, EU fishing fleets are given equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds subject to allocated fish quotas.

Irrespective of size, fishing vessels must comply with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy, which includes rules regarding access and catch limits or quota. With regard to access to Ireland's coastal waters by foreign vessels, I will point out that on the north-west coast, all foreign fishing vessels are excluded from Ireland's 12-mile fishing zone, other than for transit or shelter purposes. All foreign pelagic fishing vessels are also precluded from fishing in Ireland's 12-mile fishing zone on the west coast. Irish fishing vessels greater than or equal to 36.58 m in length are also precluded from fishing in Ireland's 12-mile zone.

Changes to fisheries policy involving access or restriction to fishing opportunities or fishing areas come within the sole competence of the European Union. Member states are permitted to introduce non-discriminatory measures within the 12-mile zone, subject to compliance with policy and procedures set down in the Common Fisheries Policy.

As an EU common policy, a proposal must, in the first instance, be made by the European Commission. Any proposal of this nature would be expected to have broad application in the context of EU waters and to apply to all fishing vessels of a particular size or using identified non-sustainable fishing gear. It appears that the Deputy's query relates to large fishing vessels targeting pelagic stocks such as mackerel, horse mackerel and herring. As he will be aware, the Irish fleet includes such fishing vessels. In respect of Ireland's position on any such proposal from the European Commission, it would be essential to have regard for the potential impacts on our fleet. Ireland's control authorities, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, SFPA, and the Naval Service, are responsible for the monitoring and control of fishing vessels, including large fishing vessels targeting pelagic stocks, in our exclusive economic zone to ensure compliance with the rules of the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

The Minister will be aware on 12 November last, it was reported that two Dutch-registered monster vessels were fishing off the Donegal coast. One was a super-trawler and the other was a factory ship. One was 470 ft long and the other was 414 ft long. They hoovered up fish. There are widespread concerns about sustainability. How can the Minister talk about sustainability of fisheries when vessels of this size are hoovering up fish? There are major concerns about discards going back into the sea. There is a lack of CCTV, observers or accountability to ensure that these vessels are catching what they are supposed to. It is difficult to take when we have given up 80% of the 1.2 million tonnes that are caught in Irish waters every year. We have given up 80% of the fish in that entire zone. The Minister needs to fight for Ireland's interests and seek to put an end to this practice.

As a Deputy from a coastal county, no more so than Deputy Mac Lochlainn, protecting and trying to ensure the welfare and incomes of our fishermen is very important to me. That has never been more the case than at the moment in the context of the Brexit negotiations and the very solid and forthright campaign we have mounted working with our European maritime nation partners to try to ensure a good outcome from Brexit in terms of access to British waters and of maintaining our quota share.

The specific issue the Deputy raised, as I pointed out to him, concerns a European competence. If there are to be changes, they will have to be at European level and to apply to all European waters, not just outside of the Irish 12-mile zone. These vessels are precluded from entering the Irish 12-mile zone and that will continue into the future. As for developing the proposal further as part of the next Common Fisheries Policy, the Deputy will have to give thought to whether he proposes that this would apply to Irish vessels of similar catching capacity, of which there are many in our domestic fleet.

Let us deal with the 12-mile issue first. The exclusive economic zone of our country comprises 200 miles, not 12 miles. There are immense resources of fisheries outside the 12-mile limit and we have given up 80% of those.

In regard to the size of the ships, Australia has banned vessels of more than 120 m in length. I do not think there is any vessel of that size in the Irish fleet, although there was the infamous Atlantic Dawn a number of years ago. We need to be serious about sustainability. If we are telling our mid-sized fleet that fishes under producer organisations around our coast about sustainability and the need to protect the six-mile limit, how can we allow super trawlers of more than 120 m - some of the largest in the world - to hoover all species of fish out of the sea, with considerable quantities of discards? We know this is an appalling practice that undermines everything else we do. Will the Minister start the battle and the process of change among his European colleagues?

The sustainability of our fisheries is really important, so we must ensure that fishing is done at a sustainable level. While it provides good income for our fishermen today, we must ensure that the stocks will be there for the years ahead. The way that is done at European level is through a quota system, although it is highly contested at all times. There is a quota system that puts a limit on what can be fished from the sea by any vessel, irrespective of its size. Whether small or large, a vessel is restricted by its quota, which is set to ensure sustainability and that the quantity of fish taken out of the sea does not exceed the quota.

There is a distinction between the six-mile, 12-mile and 200-mile zones. Within the 12-mile zone, none of these vessels is allowed to fish. Outside the zone, the standard European rules apply. Our national competence agencies, the SFPA and the Naval Service, are charged with ensuring that there is oversight and implementation of the rules. It is particularly important for large vessels that there is strong oversight, as with all our fishing sector. That has to be applied to all vessels. To respond to the Deputy's wider point, sustainability is dictated by the quota share. I do not detract from the fact that this issue certainly brings out a great deal of emotion in people, and understandably so.